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I will never forget the day that I was sitting at the table with two loved ones, ages 3 and 33 (because they’re oh-so-important to me, we’ll change their names here to Fred and Wilma, respectively). Out of the blue, Fred proceeds to start bawling; I mean the kind of tears that could wake up an entire sleeping village. When I paused to ask Fred what he was feeling, Wilma interjected with a simple “oh, don’t worry, he won’t get that”. When I questioned what she meant, she proceeded to tell me that kids his age aren’t able to understand their emotions. Out of respect for my friend Wilma, I kept my mouth shut — for about 30 seconds until she left the room for a moment. I then proceeded to ask Fred the following questions “What do you think happened?”, “Okay, and what are you feeling?”, and “Got it. And now that that’s over do you still want to feel that way?”. Fred immediately calmed down, visibly let go of his frustration and sadness, and returned to his usual cheerful and hilarious self.
You see, the idea that kids can’t identify or process their feelings is actually a very adult-like perception. To kids, everything has a feeling attached to it. Because kids tend to let go of things so quickly, we as adults often make up that they can’t really discern what’s going on. The difference between adults and children is that kids CAN identify and process their feelings – it’s second nature to them; and they can also let go of their feelings in an instant because all that exists for them is the present moment. The moment changes; their feelings can change with it.
The only reason why we, dear, well-meaning adults, believe that children cannot identify or process their feelings is that we don’t know how to ourselves. We tend to believe it’s so hard, and therefore, so “adult”. If we can’t do it, neither can our 3 year old counterparts. But have you ever stopped to think that maybe that’s all conditioning? Maybe it became so hard for us because some other well-meaning adult told our child selves to cut it out, stop feeling so much, or to suck it up, be a big boy/girl, and move on. Maybe in some special kid-self moment we were prepared to feel something deeply so we could just as quickly let it go and move on, and someone stopped us in that moment before we got to really feel it, and we in turn shoved it down, and tried to move on nonetheless. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what we’re doing to our kids now. Conditioning is everything sometimes, isn’t it?
But it does it have to be so counterproductive? What if we took a lesson from our kids about feelings? Okay, so maybe feelings aren’t exactly “childish”; but they are indeed perfectly “childlike”. And I, for one, am starting to wonder whether those words should be one-in-the-same. Since when was acting like a child necessarily a bad thing, anyway?! In this case, it’s our kids that can be teaching us. If we, as adults, can let go of all of our old programming around what it is to feel, and to express ourselves and our feelings, and take notes from our tiny associates, we may just have a more loving, communicative, connected, and conscious world in the end.
As always, this is just my two cents based upon what I see in my work and daily life. I encourage YOU to give us YOUR two cents. Feel free to comment, share, or like!